Happy Tuesday Morning!
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven
King Solomon (hate to disappoint you if you thought that the Byrds
were original; Good Old Solomon beat them by a few hundred years)
The relevance of this reference to the November 26 Vintages release? I’ll get to that in a minute.
Lately, I’ve been thinking Solomon is right. Everything has a season. I’ve also been thinking that the calendar seasons are arbitrary. Our present season is not late fall; it’s the beginning of the Holiday season. In case you forget history, the holiday season is followed by “we can help you with your creditors” season, a festive time that overlaps with “your life cannot be complete without meeting that special someone with our dating service” season and “golly you gained a freakish amount of weight and need to join our gym” season. If none of these seasons appeal to you then, don’t worry, like all seasons there is “a time to be born, and a time to die”. These seasons will pass just in time for everyone’s favorite “if you don’t invest in our retirement plan then you will end up living in a paper bag and eating broken glass” season.
Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.
The highlight of the holiday season is, of course, gift giving. So the focus of the KGBO’s November 26 release is to get you to feel the pressure to buy expensive wine as gifts to impress your loved ones, friends and colleagues. They call these wines “A Fine Romance”, a theme that makes no sense to me and causes me to wonder if the KGBO is confusing this season with the Valentine season theme you’ll see in a couple of months. But in my working-life I was never hailed as a marketing genius and “A Fine Romance” probably cost us millions so let’s go with the flow. Besides, they put extra effort into creating the spirit of romance by including pictures of wine porn to help you make your romantic gift selections.
If you must buy wine to impress then jump to the end of my comments and I’ll give you some observations.
There are probably a hundred wines in this release. There are reviewers out there with better livers than mine that taste each wine and give the wine a score (91, 92, etc.). I don’t have the budget and (frankly) I don’t know how anyone can effectively taste that many wines in such a short time. So I take the approach of reading through the catalog to try to identify the wines that might interest me.
Let’s start with the sparklers. You may want to give the $18 Domaine de Vaugondy Brut Vouvray a try (http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/domaine-de-vaugondy-brut-vouvray/154567#.WDziH7IrLIU). I thought this wine was clean, bright, had some minerals and had fruit flavors of honey dew melon, passion fruit and maybe a little lemon. I found the acid levels a little high so if you go for this wine you may want to include some food to enhance your enjoyment. Cured meats, for example. Price is fair compared to what it sells for in France ($14CDN). I use a rule-of-thumb that if you factor in the shipping, duties and People’s Republic of Ontario (PRO) taxes (including the minimum profit mandated by the PRO on the KGBO) that if we pay double the US$ price in CDN$ the price is reasonable. Using this rule-of-thumb this wine could retail in the PRO for $20 and the KGBO is asking $18.
I got lucky in picking two other whites.
One is d’Arenberg’s $18 The Hermit Crab Viognier/Marsanne 2015 (I think d’Arenberg is a great producer; more on that in a minute). http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/d-arenberg-the-hermit-crab-viognier-marsanne-2015/662775#.WDzjnLIrLIU. The melon and tropical fruit in this wine has me obsessed with pairing this wine with ham. Success on this quest has thus far eluded me as I have yet to find some ham in my unit but I swear before the bottle is empty I will enjoy this wine with some good ham. Using my formula this wine could retail in the PRO for $22 so the price is fair.
The second is the $28 Domaines Schlumberger’s Kessler Riesling 2012 (http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/domaines-schlumberger-kessler-riesling-2012/61176#.WDzkv7IrLIU), with a nose that will interest you (including some petrol), slate minerality, citrus fruit flavors, great acidity, alcohol balance and maybe a trace of ginger and bitterness on the finish. I got excited about this wine because it provides the experience that Alsace Riesling is supposed to give you. If you want to do a contrast then do a taste comparison between this wine and the Trimbach that I dissed from my last review of November 12 (http://www.vintages.com/lcbo-ear/vintages/product/searchResults.do?ITEM_NAME=734517&ITEM_NUMBER=734517&language=EN&style=Vintages). This comparison would likely confirm that the Trimbach is a dud and that there is a lot going on in the Schlumberger. You’ll gladly pay the extra $4. I believe that this wine will also age gracefully. The pricing service that I use could not locate comparative price information in other countries. I had to go back to the 2010 vintage and the price in France would indicate a PRO value of $40. I’m thinking that this wine is a real value buy and, since I am retired, I think that I can beat you to the KGBO to get a couple of bottles before it is gone.
Finally, I bought the $18 Afectus Alvarinho 2015 (http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/afectus-alvarinho-2015/471276#.WDzrebIrLIU). This wine’s tropical fruits explode out of the glass. It’s exciting and tasty but a style of wine that after a glass I tire of the experience. That’s me. No comparative pricing information available in other countries.
I kind-of struck out with the reds. I couldn’t buy two reds that interested me because of some screw-up at my KGBO store (the cases are stuck behind others and they cannot retrieve the wine). I did get a bottle of the $30 Bodegas LAN Crianza 2012 (http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/bodegas-lan-crianza-2012/424531#.WDztMLIrLIU). Note that is wine is sold in magnum so the price works out to $15 per bottle. This wine is a steal. LAN is a producer that has not failed me. This is not a wine to buy for your cellar but if you are having a Christmas party it is a great house wine to make your guests happy. Tell them it is an expensive wine from Spain and they will appreciate the wine even more. This wine has structure, length and I particularly enjoyed the anise and spice finish. The acidity in this wine makes it food friendly. Last night this wine went well with a chicken dish that I cooked with a spicy Mexican salsa. In the USA, this wine sells for $10US a bottle; a PRO equivalent of $20CND so the $15 CDN KGBO price makes it a bargain.
Finally, even if this wine may be outside of your budget, I’d encourage you to consider buying d’Arenberg’s $55 The Dead Arm Shiraz 2012 (http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/d-arenberg-the-dead-arm-shiraz-2012/430512#.WDzu3rIrLIU). Why? Well, to be honest I bought 2 bottles to be enjoyed sometime in the future. I’m basing this purchase recommendation on my experience with this producer and specifically this Shiraz. I’ve tasted bottles of The Dead Arm that were 20 years old and they were wonderful. The KGBO posted James Suckling’s review and I would place zero value on his comments. The cheapest you can buy this wine in the USA is $43USD. If you believe my double rule-of-thumb for the KGBO price then you should be paying $86CDN…$55CND is a bargain.
Onto wines to impress…
If the person you are trying to impress likes:
- California Chardonnay consider gifting Kistler’s $112 Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay 2014 (http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/kistler-sonoma-mountain-chardonnay-2014/183921#.WDz2yrIrLIU). If this person knows Cali-Chardonnay Kistler is a name that will impress, it sells for $55USD in the USA, so the KGBO is “fair”. 2014 was a good vintage.
- Maybe a better Cali-Chard choice would be Shafer’s $95 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay 2014 (http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/shafer-red-shoulder-ranch-chardonnay-2014/45583#.WDz4GrIrLIU). A great producer, name to impress, great vintage and sells for $48US in the USA ($96 PRO price).
- California Cabernet Sauvignon consider gifting Caymus’s $176 Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/caymus-special-selection-cabernet-sauvignon-2013/711663#.WDz5L7IrLIU). Great producer and great vintage. The lowest price in the USA for this wine is $130USD. So in absolute terms you are getting a better price than our American friends and the PRO “reasonable” price would be $260CDN.
- Can’t afford the $176, that’s understandable, and if you want to impress the Cali-Cab lover consider Duckhorn’s $85 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. Duckhorn is a great producer and the USA’s best price for this wine is $49USD, making the PRO price about $100 and the wine “good value”.
2013 was a great year in California, especially for Cabs. I have been lax is not having a strategy developed on acquiring these wines for my cellar.
I’ve been asked why I call our wine-controlling monopoly the KGBO. I’ve used too many words in this note already so I’ll cover that topic later.
If you do not wish to receive these emails please let me know and I will remove you from my distribution list. If you know someone else that would like to receive a copy please let me know and I would be happy to add him or her to the list.
Use the find store feature on the LCBO website to determine where you can buy this wine. I find that the locator on www.lcbo.com works better than the locator on www.vintages.com (I have no idea why the KGBO operates two different websites). KGBO Product Consultants can request a transfer from another store to the one that is better for you. They may be the controlling monopoly but you are the customer.
The next Vintages’ release is Saturday December 10. I’ll be traveling to visit friends in the USA during this time and will not be able to pay attention to this release until December 20. I suspect at that time you will not care about another f-ing Vintage release. We’ll see. Maybe the KGBO will see an urgent need to guide you through the season of New Year’s Eve.